Austin Monitor teams with website to amplify nonprofit coverage

Covering the philanthropy beat in Austin is a tall task.

There is some dispute over the actual number, but it is estimated that there are more than 5,600 nonprofits in the Austin metro area, which makes the region one of the densest with regards to nonprofits per capita in the country and the densest in the state of Texas and the southwest.

The beat is about to get some much-needed help after GivingCity Austin, a website that covers the philanthropy sector in the city, this month announced a partnership with the Austin Monitor under the Capital of Texas Media Foundation that will give the philanthropy website more financial resources and a wider audience for its reports.

“There’s so much to cover in this sector, there’s something really newsworthy to cover almost every week,” said Monica Maldonado Williams, the founder of GivingCity Austin. “One of the things we want to explore is to get rid of the limitations of word count and devote myself — and one or two or as many other journalists as we can afford — to cover that sector.”

Maldonado Williams began the website in 2007 under the name GoodCause to cover what she calls “social good” in Austin. Later that year, she changed the site’s title to its current name and has written stories on nonprofits, charity events and other good causes ever since. The site has also focused on profiles of newsmakers in the philanthropy sector and shed light on some of the underappreciated people in the nonprofit industry in the city.

But in the more than nine years she’s been doing this, Maldonado Williams has always had to keep her day job, feeding the website in her spare time and for little to no pay.

“It’s always been something I have to do on the side,” she said. “I work for a living … but the step with Capital of Texas Media Foundation will allow me to do this full-time and that’s really important. … It’s going to make all the difference in the world.”

Occasionally, Maldonado Williams, who has worked in nonprofits and covered them for about a decade, would get buy-in from her employers, such as when she went to work for the Austin Community Foundation in 2010 and the group agreed to help financially support the site, or when the Austin Creative Alliance committed to being the site’s fiscal sponsor, which allowed it to collect donations.

The site has now worked out a similar “fiscal sponsor” partnership with the Capital of Texas Media Foundation, the parent company of the Austin Monitor, and the two sides see the move as a “prelude to a much closer relationship.” The partnership will allow the two sites to share operational resources with the hopes of improving their fundraising and ability to find freelance writers to produce content for the sites.

GivingCity, which is written solely by Maldonado Williams, may get funds for more writers.

“We’re figuring out ways to collaborate that will make it easier for us to continue to do the things we need to do,” said Michael Kanin, the publisher of the Austin Monitor and CEO of its parent company. “But the publications will remain as they are.”

The two sides have yet to figure out some of the details of the partnership, like whether the sites will cross-post content from one site on the other or whether GivingCity will adopt a paywall like the Monitor.

For now, the two sites have carved out niche audiences with the Monitor focusing on local politics and GivingCity teaching people how to get involved with local charity groups and causes. But there could be instances, like the city’s rape kit backlog, where the two publications tackle the story from different angles. The Monitor has covered the story as a public safety issue while GivingCity has written about how you can help nonprofits trying to address the issue.

“I feel like there’s still a hole in instructional content that helps people learn how to get involved in the community,” she said, “that’s exactly what I’m trying to fill.”

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